Anthony Gallo Acoustics Nucleus Micro 5.1 Speaker System 
Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems
Written by Tim Hart   
Friday, 01 July 2005

There is no question that flat and wall-mounted HDTVs are driving the home theater market in 2005. Today, a consumer can invest in an under-$2,000 HDTV plasma or fairly large yet thin HDTV and get one hell of a picture. The problem is that the speakers historically best known for recreating the best music and movie soundtracks are not necessarily the best fit in rooms increasingly designed to make your system “out of the way.” Leading the way in the Bose-killer category is Anthony Gallo Acoustics. Their vast array of unique, round and colorful speakers literally fit in places where traditional speakers don’t with a sound that lures in even the most jaded audiophiles, thanks to some very creative engineering, choice of materials and implementation.

The Anthony Gallo Nucleus Micro speaker system reviewed here is a 5.1 surround sound system for movies and music, comprised of five identical four-inch spheres to use for the main, center and surround speakers. The system also includes a TR-1 powered subwoofer to fill out the lower frequencies and retails complete for a scant $999.

The first unusual aspect of the Gallo Micro satellite speakers is the enclosure’s shape. The perfect four-inch spherical shape is a touch under two pounds and has a surprisingly solid feel. Aside from the small speaker terminals and a threaded insert on the back for mounting, the enclosure is totally devoid of any other hardware. The three-inch driver uses no crossovers and achieves a reported frequency response of 100 Hz to 18 kHz at 89dB efficiency at a nominal impedance of eight ohms.

A second notable aspect of the Micro is the material of the enclosure. Gallo uses a seamless, mild steel enclosure that is said to reduce resonance. The sphere is the ideal shape for dealing with mechanical loads and pressures, as it evenly distributes across the entire surface of the structure, thus reducing resonance and harmonic distortion to a minimum. Also, diffraction should be minimized due to the lack of obstructing surfaces near or around the driver.

The appearance of the Micro is very contemporary and, depending on the color you choose (there are three different finishes: black, silver and white), it can fit well into any modern décor scheme (note: my review system came in a matte black). The Micro’s size allows for numerous mounting options, from the simple isolation ring, basically an o-ring, that comes with the speakers, to an optional wall mount, a table stand, a ceiling ring and a 36-inch floor stand. Most of these have three finish choices as well.

No small speaker ensemble is complete without a way to generate the lower octaves. The TR-1 powered subwoofer that came with the package uses a 10-inch driver coupled to a 100-watt class A/B internal amplifier in a horizontally-mounted cylindrical enclosure that measures 10.75 inches in diameter, 12 inches high, 13.5 inches deep and weighs a substantial 41 pounds. The TR-1 comes in silver and black and is the same size as its 250-watt cousin, the TR-2. The TR-1 also uses the same 10-inch driver that the Reference 3 uses, and also sports an integral bass equalizer initiated with a three-position switch for a range of -3 dB, 0, and +3 dB boost. I found this helpful watching movies and listening to music. Also, there are variable phase and low pass filter knobs, as well as low and high-level inputs and outputs for running your speakers through the TR-1. Unfortunately, there was neither a LFE input nor the ability to bypass the internal crossover in favor of using the low frequency set-up available in my preamp/processor.

I ran the Nucleus Micro system for approximately 20 hours of break-in time, using music and movies. While doing this, I positioned the satellites for the best tonal balance I could find within the area where I was listening. The satellites ended up about 18 inches from the front wall and about six feet apart. I placed the center Micro on top of the TV, and I put the rears on stands behind the couch. The TR-1 subwoofer required a bit more work to find the right location. What worked for my other subwoofer did not make the TR-1 happy. I found that, within the listening area, the bass would drop off in some areas and be accentuated in other locations, which required me to face the driver towards the corner of the room. This eliminated most of the bumps that I experienced earlier.

I used the Sunfire Theater Grand IV preamp/processor, the Aragon 2007 seven-channel amplifier and the Toshiba SD9200 for the front end. Later, I used the Gallo Micros with my computer, employing the Creative Labs Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS soundcard, to see how they worked in a multimedia environment. Finally, I integrated the Micros into my reference system, using the Anthem AVM20 preamp/processor, the Linn Unidisk universal player, and the Anthem P5 five-channel amplifier.

The Multimedia Sound
Just for fun, I hooked the Nucleus Micro system up to my gaming computer, using the aforementioned Creative Labs SoundBlaster Audigy2 sound card. Set-up included setting the speakers in a more or less circular pattern around the chair and putting the TR-1 sub under the desk. It was a snap to dial in the basic parameters for levels and so on with The Audigy2. Once that was accomplished, I logged into my favorite game to date, the first-person shooter called Unreal Tournament 2004. Online gaming, or any gaming for that matter, takes on a whole new level with surround sound if the software will support it. Creative also has a multi-channel emulator for games that don’t support 5.1. While bobbing and weaving from the enemy, the Nucleus Micro system gave me a better opportunity to audibly tell where the threats were. The spatial cues in the game are done quite well and with the Micros controlled the sound very well. I felt this gave me an even better edge on the competition. I’m not sure what the games sound sampling rates were, but the SoundBlaster card is capable of 96 kHz/24-bit on 5.1 material and the Nucleus Micro System sounded detailed, authoritative and precise. There is much more detail in the sound effects of UT2004 than I had realized and the Nucleus Micros did an outstanding job of sorting out the nuances and provided a quite intricate soundscape. Although a bit extravagant for a computer application, this package is ideal for 5.1 AV systems that run games.

The Music
Staring off with Audioslave and their latest project Out Of Exile (Interscope Records), I was prepared to squeeze any possible shortcomings out of the Gallo Nucleus Micro system with an all out-assault using the Sunfire, Aragon and Toshiba gear. “Yesterday To Tomorrow” has a scorching solo by Tom Morello, who was the front axe man for Rage Against The Machine. This is a good test of a speaker’s ability to sustain the upper frequencies at high volumes. The Nucleus Micros did a nice job of sorting out the guitar and keeping other aspects of the playing intact, such as cymbals and the snap of the stick hitting the head of the snare drum. I turned the volume up until I noticed some congestion and a bit of distortion, then backed it down a bit to eliminate these anomalies, and I was surprised at how loud these speakers could play. AVR publisher Jerry Del Colliano has previously noted the congested sound on Audioslave’s self-titled recording, even on DualDisc, so I am not going to fault the Micros too much – you can hear similar compression on Wilson WATT Puppies and big Krell amps. What I concluded was these little speakers have a lot of heart. They are certainly loud enough to inspire a visit from your landlord or wife (in my case, the latter). I tried the same tune on my reference gear (Revel, Levinson, Linn and Sunfire gear) and the Nucleus Micros were better in some ways. For example, they could create a little better layering and a more resolute and focused soundstage probably because of their size and shape. Vocals were more present, with more air around them, on my reference speakers, but these cost 14 times more money than the Micros, so you’d hope they’d be somewhat better. Make no mistake, the fact that I even got the urge to do an A-B test with big Revels against four-inch Gallo Acoustics speaks volumes as to just how good these affordable small speakers really are.

Porcupine Tree’s DVD-Audio of their recent effort, Deadwing, was up next. I used my reference system exclusively on this disc, the centerpiece of which is “Arriving Somewhere but Not Here.” This song borders on pop with a sprinkle of neo-progressive grooves and crunchy, Metallica-like riffs. This DTS-mixed track envelops the listener with a detailed multi-channel soundscape. The Nucleus Micros captured most of the delicate reverb from Steve Wilson’s guitar and the more subtle vocal textures. The vocal harmonies and their associated midrange remained intact, coming across with a slightly leaner presentation. At louder volumes, this tended to be more pronounced in my system. Nevertheless, I was duly impressed with the clarity and agility of the Nucleus Micros for their size and price. The harmonics were memorable and the balance of the system never faltered.

The Movies
“Elektra” (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment) seemed like a good first outing for the Nucleus Micro System to strut its stuff in the movie setting. I played through the first chapter, not really having anything specific to listen for while Elektra (Jennifer Garner) was infiltrating the compound of her first victim, but there were certain aspects that immediately jumped out with full-bodied spectrum, belying the size of the speakers. The presence they established as she traveled past the camera in one scene utilized the TR-1 and the Micro’s ability, and the rendition was substantial.

In Chapter 17, the character Tattoo conjures up a wolf to track Elektra and her companions through the forest. The sound the magical creature makes as it travels through the forest was very detailed, traveling from channel to channel quite seamlessly. The Nucleus Micros did an extremely good job at keeping the information undiminished.

The Downside

Don’t expect the Nucleus Micro System to fill a huge room. Despite their ability to resolve musical images, portray bombastic action sequences in movies with good authority and play louder than they look like they should, they will seem a bit anemic in a large room, especially one with a high ceiling. I started off in a large lively room. When the system was later installed in my reference system where the room is smaller, the Nucleus package really came to life. Midrange thinness diminished quite a bit and the TR-1 seemed to blend much better. But even in this environment, they do have a limit as to how loud they will play before they exhibit duress, and it may not fit everyone’s requirement for loud music and movies. If you’ve got a room that is more than 15 x 20 feet, consider using larger Gallo Acoustics speakers, paired with a powerful receiver or amplifier.

On a personal level and perhaps less a downside than a suggestion, I would recommend mounting the Micros. Their small size leaves them vulnerable to being knocked off of the O-ring supplied with the speakers. Although most people buying these speakers will not run up against this issue, my Cardas Golden Cross speaker cables kept trying to drag the speakers off of the surfaces they were sitting on and I had to strain relieve them during the review. If your speaker cable could be tripped on or accidentally caught on a dust mop or vacuum cleaner, then gravity will not be your friend. Gallo provides great mounting options, which should be utilized.

I have to admit that, while initially skeptical about a speaker package of this nature, the Anthony Gallo Nucleus Micro System has caught my attention and earned my respect. The Nucleus Micros’ ability to capture the layering and detail of music was surprising. The midrange was a touch on the lean side, but this is more a matter of taste than performance. The TR-1 subwoofer did a good job of supporting the satellites with a nice, tight low-frequency presentation. While not the lowest I’ve heard in this price range, the TR-1 did justice to the upper frequencies that the Nucleus Micro satellites created without doing anything wrong. The sound was satisfyingly enveloping on DVD-Audio and SACD material, and movie soundtracks were impressive, giving enough visceral impact to action scenes while seamlessly handling complex movie soundtracks and maintaining a nice tonal balance. Space-limited, money-conscious and aesthetically-minded individuals will want to audition these Anthony Gallo Micros. They will provide, within their limits, a well-balanced solution that must be heard to be appreciated. They certainly changed my bias. I believe they will have the same effect on you as well. These speakers are the best I have heard in the micro class. If a small, affordable, low-visibility speaker is your desire, this high-resolution gem is a perfect choice.
Manufacturer Anthony Gallo Acoustics
Model Nucleus Micro 5.1 Speaker System
Reviewer Tim Hart

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